WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai postponed his trip to Norway, his office said, as demonstrations against the United States spread over an anti-Islam film.
Karzai, who was to have left for Norway Wednesday to sign a strategic partnership agreement, had earlier talked by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama to discuss the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in which the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other diplomats were killed.
A White House statement said Karzai expressed condolences over their deaths and the two leaders also discussed "the importance of working together to help ensure that the circumstances that led to the violence in Libya and Egypt do not pose a threat to U.S. forces or Afghans."
On Karzai's cancellation of his Norway trip, spokesman Aimal Faizi said the president would visit that country at a later date, Khaama Press reported. The Norwegian Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying Karzai put off the trip as he felt he needed to remain at home because of the latest events.
The Afghan president's media office also said President Obama called Karzai Wednesday and "both the sides denounced the film and termed it as insulting to Islamic beliefs and values" and Karzai "offered condolences to his U.S. counterpart for the tragic loss of American life."
In his earlier condemnation of the anti-Islam film, Karzai said: "Insult to the greatest Prophet of Islam means insult to high values of 1.5 billion Muslims across the world. This offensive act has stoked interfaith enmity and confrontation, and badly impacted the peaceful coexistence between human beings."
CNN said in that statement, Karzai did not make a call for peace nor denounce the killings, raising concerns the film could provoke protests in his nation.
In February, there were violent and deadly rioting across Afghanistan over the inadvertent burning of copies of the Koran by U.S. troops and analysts told CNN the latest anger over the movie could also spread to Afghanistan.
Already there is concern among U.S. military officials about the escalating violence by the Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan as U.S. and NATO troops prepare to end their combat operations by 2014. Of special concern to U.S. military officials are the growing insider attacks on U.S. troops by militants posing as Afghan security personnel.
In an appeal for restraint in Afghanistan, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and the American-led military coalition jointly said, "We ask for the assistance of Afghan leaders and the people of Afghanistan in maintaining calm and continuing our work to build a better, secure future," The Wall Street Journal reported.
One Western diplomat in Kabul told the Journal, "We understand the insult, but we trust that Afghans will recognize that [the film] does not represent the views of America and the rest of the international community."
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